By Mike Baker Associated Press
SEATTLE — Fifteen protesters were arrested outside a Walmart store in Bellevue as they called on Black Friday shoppers to consider how the retailer compensates its workers.
Authorities said about 100 protesters who gathered outside the store Friday were asked to disperse, and those who remained blocking the street were arrested. Casey Hoag, a spokesman with the protesters, said the goal of the mobilization was to get Wal-Mart’s attention while also drawing the attention of shoppers.
“We’re trying to make them understand that Wal-Mart needs to pay a living wage and respect their workers,” Hoag said.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jennifer Spall said the company offers a competitive compensation package, including wages, benefits, retirement and educational opportunities.
“We are extremely competitive with our retail peers,” Spall said.
Spall said the protest had no effect on business Friday and that the Bellevue store saw a steady stream of customers. At one point Friday morning there weren’t any remaining carts for incoming shoppers, something Spall said she’s never seen before.
The Bellevue protests were part of a nationwide effort targeting Wal-Mart.
In downtown Seattle, the Friday morning shopping rush was subdued. Nordstrom’s flagship store was closed on Thanksgiving, and a crowd of a few dozen people quietly gathered at the entrance just a few minutes before the store opened Friday. A couple of blocks away, a Macy’s store that was open all night had tables of “doorbuster” items that remained fully stocked, and customers were milling about as if it were a normal holiday shopping day.
Al Schuster, 71, and his wife were continuing their 30-year-long shopping tradition in Seattle. After finishing a Thanksgiving gathering each year, the couple travels more than two hours from East Wenatchee to Seattle, then they spend Friday morning doing most of their annual holiday shopping.
The couple said it was “a shame” that some stores were open for business on Thanksgiving, preventing workers from being with their families. They didn’t do any shopping on Thursday this year and didn’t plan on participating in any future Thanksgiving discount offerings.
“There’s more important things to do on Thanksgiving,” Schuster said.